The snow is melting quickly and spring has transitioned into summer. There’s nothing more symbolic in late spring or summer then visiting one of the “great lakes” in the Sierra Nevada. Here’s some of the most beautiful lakes in California High Sierra that you may not know.
When it comes to the most beautiful lakes in California High Sierra, Mono County is filled with options. From Mono to Twin, there’s too many to count! At the top of this list is the one and only Convict Lake. Named for the historic 1871 shootout that took place on its shores, it’s surrounded by rugged peaks rising almost 5,000’ feet above its surface. This landscape creates a stunning alpine backdrop that everyone must see in person. There’s even tales that Convict Lake is home to a monstrous brown trout named ”Horgon” that few have seen and no one has ever landed.
Just a bit further south near the town of Bishop, you’ll find Lake Sabrina (pronounced sah-Brine-ah). From here you can rent a pontoon from Parchers Resort and Sabrina Boat Landing to cast a line from the waters. Or just take in the massive 13,000-foot peaks surrounding the lake. You can also head out on foot on one of the many Lake Sabrina hiking trails. For a perfect day hike to immerse yourself in the beauty of the High Sierra, head to Blue Lake. The 6.2-mile round-trip endeavor climbs 1,350 feet. And after the climb, from its shores you can take in wildflowers as well as the sharp granite peaks of the crest.
Heather Lake & Its Buddies
In the Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, there are nearly 3,200 lakes within the boundaries of these majestic reserves. With SO many to see, the question that comes to mind is “Where do you even start?” For us, it’s simple… Heather Lake! With the majority of the freshwater basins being located above 8,000’, this body of water at 9,280’ is a shining example of one of them. And since it’s on the Lakes Trail, for those with a bit more energy, you can check out Emerald and Pear Lakes too.
For the locals in the know… this slice of heaven is sometimes referred to as the smaller version of Lake Tahoe. Flanked entirely by pines and peaks jutting thousands of feet, you can see why some say that. But Bass Lake has its own flavor and style. Its businesses remind you of a cozy midwestern lake with deep roots in tradition but at the same time an alpine oasis feel unlike anywhere else. And due to its lower elevation, the water warms to the toasty seventies in the summer allowing for visitors to enjoy swimming, boating, or wakeboarding without having to don a wetsuit. It’s a perfect summer getaway for families.
While good ‘ole big blue deserves all the accolades and love, there are some lakes smaller in size albeit more tranquil during the busy times of year. The hidden gem known as Independence Lake is located between the historic town of Truckee and Sierraville. Considered one of the most pristine alpine lakes west of the Rockies, this body of water is home to one of only TWO self-sustaining populations of the native Lahontan cutthroat trout in the world. And this isn’t any ordinary fish. Sadly, it’s been lost from 99% of its historic range.
Let’s get this straight… Lake Tahoe is the king of alpine lakes. Deep opal waters. Granite peaks standing straight up from the shore. Inlets making it feel less like a lake and more of an inland sea. With that being said, the glistening diamonds on the necklace of Sierra lakes are worth an adventure in themselves including one our favorite day hikes in South Lake Tahoe – Round Lake. Accessed from the Big Meadow Trailhead, the Western flank of the lake features tall red cliffs created from millennia old volcanic best seen from the eastern shore.
The goal of this list isn’t to say that these are the most scenic lakes in the High Sierra. It’s rather to spark the wanderlust in your soul and spread the good vibes that summer is upon us! So… ready, set, dip and experience these in person!
Author: Alex Silgalis
Alex Silgalis is an outdoors travel writer who enjoys snowboarding, mountain biking, or having a cold one from a local mountain brewery. See more of Alex’s work at https://localfreshies.com
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